To be honest, I wrote that blog post in one furious spurt, clicked 'publish', and then kind of forgot all about the whole thing. After I got it out of my system, I felt better. I knew that I'd handled it pretty much the way I wanted to handle it, and kind of just closed my mental book on it when I put the blog post up.
As luck would have it, Chicago's premier food blogger just happened to be in line with his kids at the exact moment that the incident went down. So of course he wrote about it in his daily column. So I saw that, and got a chuckle about it, but then noticed the links to Yelp embedded in the Grubstreet piece, went and checked out the couple negative reviews that were (presumably) written by the aggrieved Rude Woman or her proxies and got a bit of a chuckle out of those.
And then....I figured that'd be the end of it. A few folks were outraged on my behalf due to the Yelp reviews, but I wasn't at all concerned because Yelp routinely removes (or filters, actually) reviews that are clearly grudge-driven, or that contain insults, or whatever.
But, of course, that wasn't the end of it.
A flurry of *positive* posts followed the two negative reviews from Rude Woman or her proxies. Some of my regulars who read either the blog post or the Grubstreet article must've decided that it would be a nice idea to go sign onto Yelp and write a positive review of my restaurant. Or to respond to the claims made in the Rude Woman's (or her proxies') reviews.
Which was nice. I was honestly touched. I did not, of course, ask anyone to do that, nor did I go sign up with a fake name or do it myself. As I've stated, there's really no need for that, since I figured that Yelp would pull the two negative reviews (as they've now done). I recognized a few of the positive reviewers by name or face when I read through them, and made a mental note to thank them for the support but to also let'em know that what they did was completely unncecessary (although the thought was much appreciated).
But, of course, before I could do that (and before Yelp could pull some of the positive reviews that were clearly driven by a desire to respond to the negative reviewers), some folks read those positive reviews, assumed I was behind them, and wrote a negative review about me based on THAT assumption.
Whew! You following all that? Crazy...convoluted, and with lots of assumptions piled atop more assumptions. Not a great recipe for solid factual info.
Here's an example, from one of the original Rude Woman proxy reviews (by "Truth T"):
After giving this dive a one star review, I want to downgrade it to negative 100 stars. All in the same day, I got 3 Yelp messages from people that obviously own the place or are related to the owner. All 3 of them (probably one person using 3 different yelp accounts). They all sent me nasty emails and they all happened to sign up for Yelp today. Then they all gave this dump 5 star reviews. Funny how they all signed up today and the only reviews they have is for this dump. Now we know the owner of Edzos has violated the Yelp rules. Perhaps the owner needs a lesson in customer service, much like Soggy Paws. Oh and when Soggy Paws kept doing this, that owner was banned from posting on Yelp.
Interesting. "Truth T." seems to know quite a lot about Yelp's rules and politics, which makes sense considering the fact that the same day he wrote a terrible review about my restaurant, he wrote 26 other reviews on Yelp as well. Perhaps he knew that Yelp pulls one-star reviews written by people with very few other reviews and wrote a bunch of other reviews in order to try and ensure that his rants about my restaurant would stick.
They didn't, though. Yelp removed his posts, along with those from "Ed S." of Munster, Indiana, who made a clear reference to the Rude Woman incident. In fact, all told (and this is to Yelp's credit) they removed everything from Rude Woman and her proxies, and most of the positive posts from folks who came to my defense. A couple still remain, but I'd wager that they'll be pulled pretty soon as well. All told, six reviews posted in the wake of the incident were placed into the "filtered" area, and four more were erased entirely for violating Yelp's rules of content.
The review from "Ed S." just disappeared completely (perhaps he erased it himself), which is too bad because it contained one of my favorite lines from the entire episode. After going on and on about what a dick I am for trying to ensure that all of my customers get the opportunity to sit at a table while eating their food, he went on to talk about how horrible the food was, and stated that his burger "spurted blood and grease" at him as soon as he picked it up. I got a good laugh out of that visual along with some cognitive dissonance about the idea that lots of "blood and grease" is somehow a bad thing when it comes to burgers. One guy on Twitter quoted that, saying "is that supposed to be a bad thing? I'll take two!"
Anyway, here are couple of choice excerpts from the fallout of the whole thing from various spots out there on the internet:
Some people felt compelled to comment kind of offhandedly on the situation, within the context of an actual substantive review--
I kind of don't want people to know about Edzo's, simply because every time I go, there's a line out the door. And sometimes people grab empty tables before ordering (I'm looking at you, certain Northwestern kiddos. Also, stop riding your bikes on the sidewalk), which is majorly rude and I hate it. And rude people don't deserve Edzo's food. But they still get it, because our world is not a just place. --Jasmine R. (5 stars)
Some decided that responding directly to the Rude Woman (or her proxies') claims was the best way to go:
Sorry, Ed S. is full of it. Angered over slights largely imagined...In short, yes, Edzo's gets crowded. But I've never seen Edzo himself be anything but pleasant to his customers. If he was being rude, perhaps he was merely returning it in kind..
--Fill B. (5 stars)
Interesting that the last two posters had such a terrible experience when all previous reviews -- hundreds of them -- seem to be in the 3-5 range. I have a feeling that there's something else going on with them. Not sure of their motives. But here's the real story.... --Julie C. (4 stars)
Others just resorted to outright mockery of the entire Yelper phenomenon:
Okay look. Listen to me right now please. This place is the best place in the world and there is nothing better in the whole wide world I mean that I really do for real. Their burgers are so darn good oh my gosh. Their fries (whether truffle or garlic or crazy or cheese or regular) are so darn good oh my gosh. Their shakes (whether nutella or chocolate or whatever) are so darn good oh my gosh. Basically, this place is so darn good oh my gosh. I love it. Go eat there. You'll love it too I hope. --JJ B. (5 stars)
In addition to all that ruckus, there's also been endless comments from customers here in the restaurant, the overwhelming majority of them from some of my wise-ass regulars who walk in and put their coat on a six or an eight-top and then loudly ask if it's ok to hold a table before they order. But many were just folks who felt like it was important to note that they understood and supported my policy and my actions. Which is nice.
Anyway, I just thought I'd do a little re-cap, since I had some positive things to say about Yelp and the way they deal with their reviews and wanted to note that. Yelp gets a very bad rap from food media types and professional amateur diners like the folks that frequent LTH Forum, but undeservedly, I think. I believe that the sheer volume of reviews that Yelp generates, along with their system for vetting posts, results in a pretty fair picture of most establishments.
Truth be told, I found this whole ruckus pretty informative and educational. A big part of why it worked out that way, I think, was the fact that I vented my spleen in my original blog post and, after that, I wasn't very deeply invested in the whole thing emotionally. That allowed me to kind of step back and view everything more objectively, I think. Which was good. Laughing at this ruckus was really the appropriate response. The lessons I learned were a bonus.